The Back Burner
The back burner no longer means perpetual second place as potential mates are consistently moved around the stove.1
On our insatiable search for the best of the best, we are consumed with the idea of something better. For every dinner we have, we will eat better. For every handbag we love, we will love one more. For every guy we date, we can’t help but wonder “What if there is someone I’m more compatible with?” The next-best-thing concept is continuously challenged by the excessive amount of information at our fingertips and the sheer size of the dating sea. How do we decide which fish to keep?
Thus the changing role of the back burner – Once reserved for people we could never really be with, the back burner has become a coveted holding place for potential partners who might actually make the cut. So much so that you want to be on someone’s back burner. The back burner might even be a means to real relationship. Gasp.
For instance, say I am dating three guys. I really like guy A. I think about him when I’m on other dates. When I read something interesting, I wonder what he would think of it. The way his mind operates fascinates me, hence the letter A. But because I’m too afraid to let my guard down, not sure who else he has on all of his burners and cannot say for certain our relationship has a future, I have guy B. Yes, I could clear up all of those questions by simply asking him, and then ditch B and C if he feels the same way OR ditch him and pursue B and C if he does not, but I don’t because: 1) I am a masochist addicted to a twisted dating game. 2) I refuse to compromise the imaginary power I maintain by withholding my true feelings. 3) Bringing it up contradicts the romanticized story in my mind. 4) The root of most dating dilemmas: fear of rejection.
Guy B is awesome, but I don’t make as much of an effort to get to know him. I might not text him back for a day and sometimes forget he emailed me. He might be the love of my life, but for now I keep him on the back burner and hope he stays there until I have resolved issues with A, which could take months or longer. Why on earth would someone want to be on the back burner? Being on someone’s back burner means that they like you enough to keep you. Fear of rejection avoided; and frankly, you beat a lot of other fish. You are a keeper in a great big sea…at least for now.
Poor guy C. He might be awesome, but because my time is spent on A and B, I don’t have much left over for him. Maybe his burner isn’t even turned on. He will either get tired of me because he thinks I’m flaky or assume my lack of attention means I’m not into him. But I give him just enough attention to keep him on the stove, and then redirect my focus to A and B, respectively.
Oddly, my inability to give the back burners proper attention can make them even more interested in me, while the amount of attention given to A can make him like me less. (I detest this part…) I recognize that human beings want what they can’t have, so I purposefully divert my attention from A, temporarily moving him to the back burner and B forward. Now guy B is receiving the bulk of my partially-divided attention, even though it creates a bit of cognitive dissonance, and I reciprocate until guy A gets antsy from being intentionally restricted and increases interest in me. (Mission = successful.)
Oh it’s all complicated on the love stove as the back burner no longer means perpetual second place and potential mates are consistently moved around the stove. Think musical chairs.
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